Who Are We Without Our Memories?

What is your first memory? I remember sitting at the kitchen counter with my mom. I’m kneeling on a stool while she mixes cake batter in…

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What is your first memory? I remember sitting at the kitchen counter with my mom. I’m kneeling on a stool while she mixes cake batter in the big, plastic mixing bowl she still uses today. We are singing together. I feel happy and safe, and I’m looking forward to licking the cake batter from the beaters.

But how much of this memory is real? Was my mom really using that old faithful mixing bowl? Did we sing that particular song on that day? I don’t know, but it was a song we used to sing together often and repetition is one of the things that creates long-term memory.

In the Autumn 2018 issue of New Trail, Bruce Grierson, ’86 BA(Spec), considers memory and how it shapes us. He has a personal connection to the matter, as his mother has lived with dementia for the past 10 years. While some researchers seek to understand the cause of the disease — and to find a cure — Grierson writes about what we should be doing to make sure people with dementia live a life of the highest quality in the here and now. As it turns out, the here and now is where people with dementia dwell, and embracing that same in-the-moment mentality can make things easier for families and care workers.

Researchers such as Megan Strickfaden, ’89 BA(Spec), ’02 MDes, Hannah O’Rourke, ’08 BScN, ’15 PhD, and Elly Park, post-doctoral fellow, are among the many people with connections to the University of Alberta who are working to improve the quality of care for people living with dementia and, by extension, for their families. As the population living with the fallout from this disease continues to grow, the work of these researchers will surely touch us all.

Lisa Cook — Associate Director of Communications, Office of Advancement

Lisa is the Associate Director of Communications with the Office of Advancement Communications. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of New TrailNew Trail, and uses this as an excuse to subscribe to every publication she can get her hands on. The collection of magazines building up in her cubicle recently reached Cask of Amontillado proportions.